The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is expected to be effective against the rapidly spreading variant of coronavirus in the UK, a lab study has shown.
The strain, which is more transmissible and was first discovered in the UK, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned it was “fast becoming the dominant one in Scotland” in December.
Researchers at BioNTech’s headquarters in Germany said the variant, which was reported to spread more efficiently than other strains, has an “unusually large number of mutations”.
However, the scientists found that antibodies in 16 patients who had been vaccinated were able to fight off a test-tube version of the virus – including all of its mutations.
The patients were selected from the previous German vaccine trial and included eight younger people, between 18 and 55-years-old, and eight older adults, between 56 and 85-years-old.
The report, published on Tuesday and which has yet to be peer-reviewed, found there was “no biologically significant difference in neutralisation activity” between samples of the original strain detected in Wuhan and the UK-variant.
But the researches cautioned despite the “reassuring” find that the continuous evolution of Covid-19 means constant monitoring of the significance of any mutations on the effectiveness of the authorised vaccines is necessary.
The UK strain was first detected in September; the paper states “it subsequently increased in prevalence, showed enhanced transmissibility, and spread to other countries and continents”.
The authors said there was particular concern about the new virus’ variety in hosts, including mice.
Since then a number of other variants have been found around the world and the Scottish Government implemented further travel restrictions.
All passengers from outside the Common Travel Area must self-isolate for ten days and must have a valid negative Covid test, no more than three days before they leave for Scotland.
Almost 300000 vaccines have been administered in Scotland with about 16000 vaccinations currently being carried out a day.
The most recent figures show that 284,582 people in Scotland have received their first dose of the vaccine, about 6.4 per cent on the adult population.
Only 3,886 people have had the second dose of vaccine, with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that the first dose should be prioritized.